A routine sightseeing trip to a remote volcanic island off the coast of New Zealand ended deadly in 2019.
Now a new documentary from director Rory Kennedy and executive producers Leonardo DiCaprio, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer details the fateful trip that resulted in the deaths of 22 tourists.
Through first-hand reports, The Volcano: Rescue from Whakaari chronicles what happened on that day in December 2019, when 47 visitors and guides were trapped “at the epicenter of a boiling pyroclastic surge of toxic dust and ash,” according to a synopsis for the film, as the volcano unexpectedly erupted.
“It was a beautiful day, you could feel the heat from the volcano,” says a member of the field trip in a voiceover in the new trailer for the film.
Another tourist adds: “From the description it was a nice, easy hike. She didn’t sound dangerous.”
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Those who were on the island that day recall an “unbearable” heat that tore their clothes and a dire situation that made them doubt if they would survive with their lives, one couple recalled Honeymoon.
To make matters worse, local authorities were initially unable to respond due to the inherent dangerousness of the situation, forcing the local community to band together to help those trapped in the volcano’s crosshairs.
Kennedy was able to film the up-to-the-minute report in part thanks to cellphone footage, she said filmmakers Magazine.
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“With the proliferation of cell phones and video cameras, and the fact that this was actually a tourist activity, I felt there had to be footage that would allow me to stay low to the ground minute after minute, and so by structuring the like that Films, the sum of those minutes would add up to something bigger,” she said.
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The film also benefits from input from a survivor who provided 16 minutes of “powerful and heartbreaking never-before-shared cellphone video and audio,” Kennedy said, captured from the moment the volcano erupted to the moment it was rescued.
The Volcano: Rescue from Whakaari Premieres on Netflix December 16.